There is no better quality for a new band to have than attitude. Attitude in music brings out the true identity of the artist, leaving the listener with a lasting impression. With the vast openness of internet reshaping the music industry, a band’s window of time to hook in listeners has shrunken significantly, and a band with attitude quickly separates itself from the pack. Ugly Kids Club is such a band.
Hailing from Nashville, Tennessee, Ugly Kids Club is comprised of members Steve Wilson and Aliegh Shields. Wilson, a grammy-nominated producer and songwriter has worked in the past with such groups as The Juliana Theory and Jonezetta, whereas Shields comes from a self-taught background, growing up playing the guitar and performing on stage. The group formed in 2011 and released their self-titled EP on January 10th, 2012. The six track EP spans just over 30 minutes in length and packs a real punch. The band’s fuzzy, in your face style of electronic rock is compiled of a mixture of distorted guitar and rich synth melodies and features both Wilson and Shields on vocals. While this EP immediately harbors comparisons to acts like Sleigh Bells and Dynasty Electric, Ugly Kids Club still maintains a sound all its own.
Listen While You Read
The energy in this EP is immediately evident and intoxicating. All of the tracks have great first-listen appeal, and the chorus hooks are very catchy. Additionally, the production of this EP is very impressive. The hard drums and overdriven guitars are mixed with equally intense vocal stylings, yet the addition of cleaner poppy synths mix into the tracks very well and develop a very complete sound. Wilson and Shields match very well together vocally, with many tracks featuring equal parts from both artists, creating a sound which is uncommon and fun to listen to. The various layers of instrumentation mesh very well together, and despite the multitude of very different musical elements juxtaposed together, nothing really ever sounds out of place.
While the vocals on this EP suit the music very well, some variation in the delivery would not have hurt. The EP establishes its tone on the very first track, and generally carries through on every other one. One or two alternate tracks with more melodically driven vocals would have done a lot in making the EP whole. Other than that, there isn’t a whole lot negative to say about this EP.
This EP is rock-solid. The Ugly Kids Club really came out of the gates with all cylinders firing and created a debut work that plenty of experienced bands wish they could muster. The production genius of Steve Wilson mixed with the punky vocals of Aliegh Shields combine to make a sound which leaves the listener craving more. With such a strong debut, I can not wait to see what the future has in store for this group.
One of the more beautiful things about bands in the Sargent House family is the collaborations between label mates. Lisa Papineau is no exception. Her release last year with Matt Embree (ME + LP – Chez Raymond) featured Papineau’s vocals with a touch of an eerie, airy haunting vibe. Big Sir is more tech’d out. Both Papineau and Juan Alderete (bassist of The Mars Volta) have been producing this blend of ethereal bass-and-vocals meets 808-beats-and-more-vocals since the late ’90s. Before Gardens After Gardens is seemingly the product of both musical chemistry between each other and musical respect for each other.
Have a listen to Before Gardens After Gardens below!
It’s probably the most interesting blend of creativity I’ve heard in a while. Both Papineau and Alderete show no boundaries on their musical endeavors. The album snaps between lovely layerings of vocals to an interesting take on electro-dance pop within moments. The album also switches between digital drums and analog drums, manned by Cedric Bixler-Zavala (vocals of The Mars Volta; drummer of De Facto). The most prominent switches come from Alderete, as he subtly changes the complexities of his bass sound between and within tracks.
Vocally, Papineau is accented by a slew of backing vocalists. In contrast to ME + LP, Big Sir feels bigger. ME + LP seemed like Papineau had a microphone, held our hand, and walked us through a forest. Big Sir is more of a fun house of vocals, with Papineau distorting our sonic perceptions at will. Never does the album deviate from the focus on vocals and bass, which makes complete sense seeing as a vocalist and bassist are producing this album. However, this doesn’t make this album one-dimensional at all. It’s a sort of kaleidoscope — a crazy spectrum of what these two can do. Even more than that, it’s what these two did in terms of framing it within an album’s perspective. This isn’t just two friends busting out some jams over Skype. Well-thought out, well-written, well-produced album.
The attraction to this music may be hard outside of the lo-fi community. Although this album may be one of my favorite minimalist albums I’ve heard as of late, this isn’t necessarily an album I would recommend to any layperson. The subtle development of all the tracks, in terms of appreciating the entire album as a whole, may be left out of the shuffle-playlist culture we live in today. The elegance of the production is left at the wayside for someone looking for Alderete to shred. And shred he does… just not to the extent a die-hard TMV fan would expect. Both Papineau and Alderete shred with near-perfect ears for producing this album, and that is something many people might not really realize.
Big Sir’s Before Gardens After Gardens is a production work of art. Everything from the tracks to the tracklisting, to how the album art actually illuminates the synesthesia-like mood of the album, is done with pin-point precision. This is an album meant to be listened to from the first track to the last track. No breaks. No excuses. Just do it. Unfortunately, the album’s inherent lo-fi/minimal sound may detract those who were looking for something with a bigger sound. And although I would say this may be the biggest sounding album I’ve heard from this sort of music, this album may just be a big fish in a relatively small pond. If you have an ear for what goes behind creating a great album, this is definitely music production 101. If you’re looking for something like The Mars Volta, you might want to wait a few months more.
We listen to a lot of music here at 402. A LOT. We get stacks and stacks of EPKs on top of things we pursue independently with the intention of reviewing on top of things we listen to just because we love them. Case in point: if my last.fm stats are anywhere close to reliable, I listened to ~140 Cloud Cult songs in 2011. They didn’t even put out an album in 2011!
Point is– we listen to a lot of good stuff that doesn’t get reviewed. Not because it isn’t worth telling the world about, but because we’re busy as shit. In honor of that, I’ve put together a list of 8 indie albums from 2011 that I liked but, for one reason or another, never reviewed for 402. Please note: these albums were not chosen by consensus. These are just personal favorites.
1. Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues
I’d never loved a Fleet Foxes record before, but I love this one. LOVE it. Especially the title track. Unfortunately, it sat near the top of my “things to review” list for so long that I basically forgot about it. But let’s be fair: Fleet Foxes have Rolling Stone and Pitchfork to sing their praises; neither they nor you need me to extoll their virtues. Just give this a listen if you didn’t get around to it. It’s awesome.
2. Wolf Gang – Wolf Gang EP
Another good EP from 2011, proving once again that good music is going back to the shorter format. This whole EP wasn’t astounding, but lead track “Lions In Cages” found a home on my Favorite Songs of 2011 mixtape, beating out big names like Gil Scott-Heron, and The Elected.
3. Action Bronson – Dr. Lecter
A chubby white dude with a beard like Rick Rubin who sounds just like Ghostface and raps about food? How can this not be awesome? Dr. Lecter blew me away, and would have been in serious consideration for an Album of the Year nod had I gotten around to reviewing it earlier.
4. Andrew Jackson Jihad – Knife Man
Okay, this may for real be my favorite album of 2011; it’s funny, sweet, genuine, caustic, and balls to the wall. I like it even more than Can’t Maintain, their 2010 album which was represented in the second installment of my short-lived Missed Gems segment. Listening to this reminds me of why music is such an incredibly powerful medium. And it makes me feel awesome.
5. MC Chris – Marshmellow Playground
I pitched a piece to PopMatters (say that three times fast!) about Marshmellow Playground, but no one bit. Turns out, 11-minute kid-themed albums by nerdcore rappers aren’t considered serious art. But this is one seriously interesting album, and one that I spent hours upon hours ruminating on. It’s deeply sad, slightly disturbing, not at all a children’s album though it is written from the point of view of a child. It opens with kids on a playground then turns into a Linkin Park-esque self-help anthem, and the last lullaby is the soundtrack to a crazed serial killer winning. Is it pastiche? Is it satire? Is it serious? All I know is that it’s a total trip.
6. Das Racist – Relax
It lacks the punch of their earlier mixtapes, but Das Racist has a proven track record of who-gives-a-fuck that rivals any artist in history. This is hip-hop for the post-gangster generation. They don’t give a fuck, and neither should we, though El-P’s guest spot is, for my money, the most valuable co-sign these guys have gotten.
7. Tyler, The Creator – Goblin
I know, I know– Tyler has officially outstayed his media welcome. Between rampant homophobia, Twitter beef with Tegan & Sara, and getting arrested for destroying a soundboard at The Roxy, Tyler hasn’t had the best PR year. But his 2011 solo effort was raw and rugged and, eye-rolling cameos by some of Odd Future’s less talented members aside, was surprisingly good. Sorry, Childish Gambino fans: I think the “angry young black guy who had a hard life growing up and wrote a record about it” award goes to Goblin.
8. Mason Jennings – Minnesota
Why didn’t I review Minnesota in 2011? Easy– I didn’t listen to it until 2012. It’s been on DJ Fuze+ for months, but I think I got him mixed up with Waylon Jennings or one of those other old-school Country Western guys and therefore just didn’t care enough to listen. When I did, I was pleasantly surprised– sweet melodies, understated piano lines, and great lyricism presented in the perfect 35-minute chunk. Given the glut of shitty music we have to wade through each year, this album is like a mouthful of mineral water after a hard workout; it goes down smooth and you’d happily have 10 more just like it.
That’s it for me chronicling my failures of 2011. See you next year, when I tell you all about the best albums of this year that I completely missed until 2013!
A lot of things come to mind when Victor Villarreal is mentioned. One might think immediately of the impeccable guitar work and incomprehensible time signatures displayed on tracks like “Everyone Is My Friend” and “Life In The Hair Salon – Themed Bar On The Island” on Owls‘ only record. A purist or nostalgic would most likely play back the crescendo of guitar angst from the beginning of Cap’n Jazz‘s “Little League.” I myself have had Ghosts And Vodka‘s “Good Luck With Your Multiple Personalities” on replay for the past two weeks. He’s esoteric as hell, but his work on a six-string is legendary to those who have the pleasure of being in the know. As a solo artist, Victor has only released a handful of songs, and Joyful Noise will be seeing the release of his first proper album Invisible Cinema on the 24th of January.
This is a more stripped-down version of the album’s opening cut; not the exact recording from the LP.
It is exciting in the first place that Victor has decided to put more focus towards his solo career, because his musicianship up until now has consisted of him using his guitar to speak his mind. Now, his instrumental value still remains as the centerpiece of Invisible Cinema, but it’s great to know that he is very much capable of conjuring up some thought-provoking lyrics as well. “The only evidence of what I hear today is drowning common courtesy with harmony” is both poetically cryptic and possibly cynical. The lyrics even appear refreshing compared to Tim Kinsella‘s brand, who is usually the wordsmith behind collaborations with Victor. Tim writes wonderful songs with meanings that more often than not are incredibly difficult to crack, and may just be too specifically personal to be understood. There is still a lot of mystique present around a lot of Villarreal’s songs, especially in “Darts In The Dark,” but his wordplay is less challenging and relatively straightforward.
Opening up a new side of himself lyrically is very good news, but as I said before, Victor’s acoustic and electric guitars steal the spotlight. He definitely delivers, giving us seven tunes full of his trademark playing oddities. “Leaves” is practically a beginner’s course in hearing his off-kilter time signatures. Remember that beautiful e-bow/feedback from American Football‘s “The One With The Tambourine”? It makes it’s return in “Sway.” One of the most impressively technical tracks is “Strings Attached,” which is comprised of all harmonics.
Victor enlists some stellar help on the album to fill in any loose ends and add flare. “Darts In The Dark” features a nice amount of dirty trumpet as accompaniment. Erik Bocek is most commonly known as a popular bass contributor to Joan Of Arc. He too lends his bass riffs tastefully to these songs, further exemplifying that the Joan Of Arc family tree always works best when they work together.
There isn’t much to say about Invisible Cinema that’s extremely negative. From time to time, a little too much emphasis can be put on his vocals. For example, in “Strings Attached,” the lyrics get bogged down by some excessive echo effects. Instances such as this take away from the vibe and can be a bit of a disappointment, but luckily that never lasts very long and picks right back up by one of Victor’s excellent auditory tricks he has hiding up his sleeve.
It’s about time that Victor Villarreal decided to put out a solo LP, as it seems like he was one of the few artists from the Chicago composite of Joan Of Arc and Cap’n Jazz that had yet to really release anything on his own. Invisible Cinema is a very strong debut. Although his guitar arrangements are commonly complex, they are never once hard to follow or listen to. This record is filled with ambience, thoughtfulness, and an indie rocking number or two as only Victor knows how to remit.
Hey there, readers of 402! Welcome to the new series of articles where a music-related question is tossed around to all of our staff, and we respond. Simple. Today’s question…
We all know that the most talked about band in the world will always be The Beatles. Their catalogue is an excellent one, but, what song(s) of theirs can you not stand?
Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds. That transition with the drums into the chorus always bugs the fucking shit out of me. You’re the greatest band in the world, writing the greatest album in the world, and you let that bullshit slide? George Martin (the producer at the time) must have been duct taped and thrown into a closet to let Ringo get away with that shit. I am filling with rage just talking about that song. Yellow Submarine may be number two. A select few White Album tracks too.
Yellow Submarine. Obnoxious fucking song.
Norwegian Wood annoys the hell out of me. I had to play it on clarinet for my middle school band and even back then I was like “this song is bullshit!” I don’t know precisely what it is: the obvious attempts at “cleverness”, the repetitive melody, the cock-blocking job the woman has, or the friggin’ sitar, but I despise that song. If someone puts that on Beatles Rock Band I walk out of the room.
I’m gonna have to go with “Baby You’re A Rich Man”. That chorus just got carved into my brain one too many times.
As far as a single song is concerned, I would have to go with “Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite.” Yes, when the Fab Four took psychedelic drugs it produced some great tunes, but it doesn’t get more irritating for me than that particular track. Others that bug the hell out of me are any of the handful of songs that George decided to play sitar for. “Tomorrow Never Knows,” “Within You Without You,” etc. They seem less like songs and more, “Let’s have George mess around on that thing for a few minutes. John, say whatever comes to mind.”
Not long ago, I reviewed the Dirtnap Records affiliate The Steve Adamyk Band, praising their knack for pumping out pop-punk material that didn’t sound aggravating, cliche, or passe for that matter. Fellow writer Nick Wan also just recently took a look at labelmates Mind Spiders, who similarly offer a sound that furthers the current pop-punk genre and keeps it in an appreciative state. Essentially, they accomplish the exact opposite of what Green Day does. Following the trend, the Sonic Avenues are set to release their sophomore effort Television Youth. To any of you who may have been under the impression that this album was scheduled for this past Sunday, it has now been pushed to the 31st, due to an unsatisfactory test pressing.
Being familiar enough with Dirtnap associate bands at this point, I assumed correctly that this would be an album of fast-paced pop songs intended for lighthearted and fun situations. If you are looking for comparison, the Sonic Avenues are a less abrasive version of The Steve Adamyk Band. Television Youth never or rarely goes into a minor key, regardless of the subject matter at hand. Even the kickoff track “Givin’ Up On You” is quite the bummer if you look at the lyrics, but these guys have a tendency to always maintain a happier tonality to their tunes. It’s admirable, because it shows that their outlook is to promote positivity, even in the saddest of times.
These songs all have a terrible propensity to become indiscernible from one another. After multiple listens to the album, it is still difficult to look at a random title of a song and think of how it played back. On a lyrical level, nothing defines itself from the pack. Their singer is already a bit of a pain to listen to because he sits on the hackneyed, wailing side of the fence, rather than expressing much legitimate feeling in his vocals. It sounds like factory-produced pop-punk vocals made for pop-punk music.
The Steve Adamyk Band never crossed that path of annoyance because Steve himself actually showed a lot of range when singing, as with the rest of the band. Another plus of Forever Won’t Wait was that every track showed varying song structures and styles. You could find anything from the Pixies-esque “Forever Won’t Wait” to the political burner “Election Day.” What does Television Youth have? “Fadin’ Luv,” which contains a refrain about “…fading love” and “Static Attraction,” which contains a refrain about “…static love.” It is a downright bear to listen to if you are someone who wishes for diversity between a band’s track listing and general songwriting talent.
There are quite a lot of albums I review that meet this type of fate in the end. Nothing about Television Youth outwardly sounds offensive to the ear; the guitars aren’t grossly atonal, the drums are fine, and the bass lines are appropriate and agreeable. Problems arise from the Sonic Avenues’ inability to write music that is flexible or distinctive. Instead of presenting an attitude or personality, they waste their songs with overused, faux-beachy filler.
First of all, it’s very silly to believe that many music blogs actually venture out and wait until an album release to go to their nearest record store (assuming they are stocking an album), purchasing it, listening to it enough times and then posting a review about it on their site. Much less, it’s very silly to believe that most music blogs have the help from countless reps at press and management companies that feed us press release emails and electronic press kits. In terms of what SOPA would effectively be doing to music blogs (especially the new ones) would be putting a target on many (if not all) of their backs.
Before 402 had the backing of PR and management companies, it was just me and a handful of friends I had met via music forums. A big hobby of ours was to really get to know the opening bands and artists when Straylight Run would go on tour. Of course, one guy would get the album… then that guy would send it to someone else… and so on and so forth. It was relatively safe since it was only around 20 of us sharing music with each other. To be completely honest, a good amount of those people would normally not download music at all. Not because of fear, but because they had jobs and were either going to see them soon and buy the album at the show or they already bought it. This sort of book-club-turned-music-club sort of paved the way for what 402 has become.
On the other side of things, the original founders of this place (Ryan Tamborski, Remy Chan, and me) would normally head over to Amoeba Records in San Francisco and drop unreal amounts of cash on used albums. We’d spend hours in there. This was before smart phones and when the recommendations and promotions on the actual wrapping meant something. We’d get our armfuls of albums then spend the rest of the day listening to all of the albums in Tambo’s car. That, also, sort of paved the way here.
If SOPA existed, it’s more than likely I would be receiving threatening letters. That isn’t because I was a major music trader or because I downloaded albums illegally or any of these things, but because my small instances where that did happen would attract my ISP (Comcast, a major proponent for SOPA/PIPA) to look into my activity more. And although my activity back then was most likely illegal and looked down upon by today’s standards, it wasn’t without worth. The want to seek out the bands and artists I am most interested in were not only talked about amongst our music community we had back then, but also very enjoyed for the most part — to the point where the amount of shows and merch I’ve personally purchased has outweighed the EP or demo I downloaded.
A way to look at SOPA/PIPA is just that — a target getting placed upon your back. This blog isn’t outside of the norm in terms of how we started. Nor will it be the last blog to start the way we did. However, it may be one of the last blogs to do it in the safety and naivety that we had. We review music because we love music. We get music to fuel our love for it. The kindling that started this fire may have been not the smartest to use, but we burn just as hot and bright as anyone around us now. SOPA would be the douche bag who eyes you down for stealing the kindling, then comes over with a super soaker and threatens to drown you out before you even start. Sometimes, the threat is enough. Sometimes, this douche actually soaks you. Sometimes, it’s a bluff. Whatever it may be, it’s not right. It’s never right to put someone’s fire out without their consent. Nor is it right to threaten putting a fire out before it starts. Didn’t we learn anything from Minority Report?
What this means for new bloggers? I mean, it’s fairly obvious. New music bloggers aren’t the ones who are getting hundreds of emails from PR/management companies a day. New music bloggers aren’t the ones who have a voice to shout with, in terms of clout in the music blogging scene. New music bloggers want to keep their blogs relevant by reviewing new music. Ergo, new music bloggers will want the newest and most relevant music via means that aren’t through PR/management/labels. Whether this means getting music from torrents, MediaFire searches, people on forums or websites, or however you cut it… it’s happening. This is obviously not the best situation for record labels, as they are the people who are putting up the funding for their artists to head into a studio to record, but SOPA wouldn’t be any better of a solution. What means more to a label at that point? The ability that millions listen to your album or the chance that thousands of the millions will be harmed for trying to listen to your album?
A different solution to combat music downloading? Do what Sargent House is doing. Cathy Pellows promotes her artists’ albums via BandCamp, where you can stream every album for free. Does this availability cut into her overall profits? Probably. But she understands what the hell is going on at the moment, and adjusts accordingly. She doesn’t take out a fucking machine gun and threaten to own all fools who cross her. She embraces the internet listener and promotes what she is pushing: music over money. Love over douchebaggery. And in turn, she’s rewarded. People are buying Sargent House albums with real money. People go to shows where Sargent House bands are playing.
Fear mongering doesn’t allow for that kind of passion. If Pellows was saying, “Buy our shit… or else.” that would effectively label her and her artists as assholes. And when was the last time you wanted to buy something from an asshole? However, can you count the times you were persuaded by a free sample of something? I religiously buy this vegan butter because the dude who made it gave me a sample and told me about the cost and benefits without any bullshit. And I’m not vegan at all. That butter is just good and I know where the money is going — into the hands of some dude who actually cares about the stuff he’s making. He didn’t go on some tirade about how butter is made at production factories, or about how unethical I am for eating a croissant or drinking milk. He didn’t stalk me in the store to make sure I wasn’t buying meat. He didn’t tell me about the potential food poisoning or cysts or illnesses I could get from eating whatever meat I did purchase that day. Lastly, he didn’t punch me in the face for actually buying meat.
With that, SOPA/PIPA is much like The Gestapo. This would allow Comcast, AT&T, Time Warner, Roadrunner, or whatever ISP you use to sit back and wait as you made your moves. Then, when they’ve collected enough information on you, they bust down the door and start messing with your internet. This can escalate to service stoppages, fines, lawsuits, potential jail time… it’s ridiculous. What you normally do on the internet would be illegal. Think about that.
Being submerged in this indie music scene is sometimes all encompassing. All your conversations about music tend to revolve around the bands and artists you listen to the most. Through that (assuming music dictates your life as it does everyone at 402), other hobbies and conversations arise that all stem from listening to indie music. For example, I learned how to play a lot of the music I listened to, which ended up warping my playing style. Now, I sound like a watered down version of all the music I’ve listened to. A more common example is that you end up meeting new people because of the music you like. You meet people at a show, or maybe you are in a car and someone is playing an album you bond over, or you say hi to a person mouthing the words to a song at a coffee shop or something.
However, the world of the indie music listener is sometimes sheltered. It’s hard to find someone outside of the music scene you exist in because all of your friends are probably engulfed by the same music you listen to. It’s hard to find someone who says against something you may really, truly find amazing.
Enter Dan Jordan. He doesn’t really listen to any music. At all. His taste in music revolves around the video game soundtracks he listens to (if he’s forgotten to turn off the in-game music) or very select TV shows and films (see: The X Factor, Britain’s Got Talent, The Matrix). However, it’s not that he hates music entirely… he sort of is open to all things. Music isn’t necessarily a con to him, just something he doesn’t really look for.
A little more about Dan Jordan: He lives in Birmingham, England. He loves sports. He also (for some reason) really loves American football (the sport, not the band). He supports Liverpool F.C. as well as the Carolina Panthers and the Baltimore Ravens. He’s recently quit smoking and chooses to bike ride many miles as a hobby.
Dan Jordan has been pining to be a writer or contributor to 402 since it’s inception a few years ago. It wasn’t until very recently when we figured out he would be open to doing album reviews under my guidance. This is what we came up with.
Many people in the indie music scene would agree that Neutral Milk Hotel’s In the Aeroplane Over the Sea is one of the greatest albums of all time. Generally, most people who are involved with indie music will agree this album is good, if not great (or amazing). To understand what someone who doesn’t listen to any kind of music at all thinks, I’ve recruited Dan Jordan to do a track-by-track analysis of each song. Below you will find a relatively short audio review of each track and the album as a whole by Dan Jordan, with some commentary from me. Also, there are a few select quotes about the album or select tracks I’ve pulled out of the 10-minute audio review, for those who cannot listen to the track.
Dan Jordan: This sounds like a Paul Oakenfold song [see: "Ready Steady Go"].
On “Two-Headed Boy”
DJ: It’s not very good quality. The sound quality of the vocals. I find it hard to decipher the words he’s saying. It sounds like he’s not even in a studio. It’s like he’s in a garage with the door open and he’s standing just outside. This song is the worst song so far. It’s just ranting. The vocals were bad. It sounded like it was underwater.
On “The Fool”
DJ: It sounds official. Like a funeral. When they are carrying the coffin. When they put the coffin down, the dead guy will get out of the coffin and start dancing in the coffin.
Nick Wan: What funeral is like that?
DJ: A fake one.
NW: How many fake funerals are there?
DJ: What? Didn’t you know about fake funeral rehearsing??
NW: And they play… Neutral Milk Hotel at these funerals??
On “Holland, 1945”
DJ: This sounds like the last one! But more cheerful. This is the sort of music which will start playing once the guy gets out of the coffin and starts dancing.
On “Oh Comely”
DJ: Ahh! This song is 8-minutes long!! Can we just skip this song?
NW: This is one of the best songs on the album, Dan Jordan.
DJ: Just because it’s 8-minutes long doesn’t mean it’s the best one. This sounds like that Metallica song. “The Memory Remains”. More stealing! More!!
DJ: This song sounds like “I’ll Be There For You,” the Friends opening theme. More similarities!! I don’t like this ending. It sounds like the shit Nate and Ryan [Gabos] would jack off to. I don’t know why people like this sort of shit. So unoriginal. Kind of like a clusterfuck of instruments.
DJ: So hipster. What’s this, bagpipes? It wasn’t bad! It was pure instrumental. I prefer those songs to the songs with vocals in them. But, it’s not the best song on the album. “Ghost” is.
On “Two-Headed Boy pt Two”
DJ: The last song is “Two-Headed Boy” again, so we don’t have to listen to this.
NW: This is part two.
DJ: Then why isn’t it after part one?
NW: It is.
DJ: Why are the shit songs the longest ones? What?? This doesn’t make sense. Saying that his ring is in her mouth.
On Jeff Magnum
DJ: Who is this hipster? Does he make any songs that don’t sound like other songs? This song ["The King of Carrot Flowers pts Two and Three"] sounds like another Paul Oakenfold song. This guy must be 24. I think this guy likes to take other people’s music and claim it as his own because the two songs I’ve listened to so far, I can see he has stolen parts for his music.
DJ: He sounds like a busker. A person who sits in the street with a guitar and sings for money. Has his cap on the floor and collects coins. He eats McDonald’s. But has a Happy Meal. That’s what’s hipster about him. An adult who eats a Happy Meal.
NW: What kind of student do you think he was in high school?
DJ: A C-student.
NW: What was his favorite class?
NW: What do you think this guy likes the most?
DJ: Nature shit. Walking. Camping. I don’t know. He likes nature. He sounds like a hick. Is he from a hick area?
NW: He’s from Louisiana.
NW: What kind of drink does this guy get at a bar?
DJ: Double whiskey.
On Jeff Magnum live
NW: How many people do you think go to his shows?
DJ: I don’t know. 50?
NW: How much would you pay to see this guy sing these songs?
DJ: Nothing. Wouldn’t he just go to bars anyway?
NW: This sounds like bar music? Like, a guy in the corner?
DJ: Yeah. Like, the only way I would listen to this is if I was at the bar anyway and he just happened to be singing.
On the album art
DJ: Is it a woman with an apple slice as a face? Is it a tambourine? Are they… Nazis or something? Why are there Jews drowning in the water???
On In the Aeroplane Over the Sea in whole
DJ: This band is shit. Some shitty little support band, probably. I hate them.
NW: What are the benefits of this album?
DJ: That they know how to copy people’s music.
NW: What are the cons?
DJ: That they copy people’s music. Bad album. It’s busker music, as I said.
Dan Jordan, like many people who don’t listen to music as often or as fervently as most readers of this site, tried to do two things with this album: connect it to previously familiar songs and cultural references. Very rarely did he mention production quality (or lack thereof) or instrumentation (unless questioned). Something to be noted about his fairly brash and forward remarks about one of the most celebrated albums known to indie music is the fact that from the outside looking in, it’s not really that impressive. That’s not to say that in reality, it’s not impressive. That’s just to say the potential mass perception of NMH is one… not mystical and magical music but one of glorified coffee shop or bar rock.
If I had a nickel for every time that I reviewed a band from Brooklyn… well, truthfully, I’d probably only have enough money to buy a box of Goobers, but you get the point. I’m not knocking the area at all, I just mean to say that it is the modern melting pot for indie rockers to call their home and form bands. The Babies are a young band, (pun DEFINITELY intended), and have thus far released a few singles and an LP that all center around some loose definition of indie pop. Not more than a few days ago, the group released a new EP called Cry Along With The Babies that is far from typical of their previous works, as it displays twenty minutes of members Kevin Morby and Cassie Ramone’s low fidelity recordings and demos.
Although there’s nothing but a guitar or two and Kevin and Cassie’s vocals featured on every track, their signature peppiness shines through on these minimalist songs. Because the segments of Cry Along With The Babies were recorded on the go in between shows and in bedrooms, (and trust me, it is very apparent upon listening), the twee nature belonging to The Babies’ other releases has to be “unearthed” so to speak in order to get the familiar effect if you are a fan of the group. This EP contains a set of blueprints, after all.
The Babies are not artists for the lo-fi genre. That is what we have to learn from listening to their new extended play. Audio quality of a song has nothing to do with how well-received or listenable the music ends up being. Bands like Sebadoh and Guided By Voices have kicked that hypothesis out the door by recording numerous releases with poor audio equipment and churning out indie rock classics that get played to this day such as “Spoiled” and “Drinker’s Peace,” respectively.
If you have listened to anything The Babies put out prior to this release, their niche is instantly understood. They deserve a studio setting for any of their songs. Take “All Things Come To Pass” for example; it is a heavy reverb-utilized affair with plainly strummed guitars and twinkly vocals. Strip away any cords, amplifiers, and drums, and you are left with a dull, repetitious tune that sounds nothing like its original form did. There lies the problem with Cry Along: it is a collection of six potential songs that are all in a premature stage, (another intended pun), and would bode well seeing an addition of the electric guitars and drums relative to The Babies’ other output.
It is gutsy to allow the public insight to mere ideas of songs in a state of unreadiness, but it is astounding that Morby and Ramone didn’t take a look at what they were about to release and decide against doing so. Remember, we’re not talking about audio here, but the songwriting quality doesn’t fit the lo-fi genre presented on the EP. Another shame to consider is that this is being released partly to coincide with their tour as supporting act for the wonderful Real Estate. Cry Along With The Babies is a one-way ticket to get a fan base disinterested in an opening act for the headliner, that is for sure.
Infinity Cat is a record label that I’ve learned to enjoy a lot. Months ago, I reviewed and interviewed Diarrhea Planet about their debut album Loose Jewels, which was one of the most fun albums of the previous year. Getting familiar with the band also prodded me into checking out the label’s critically lauded act, JEFF The Brotherhood. They too, are an awesome group. I am a bit late on this one, but Infinity Cat saw the self-titled debut album of Uncle Bad Touch in November of last year. They are a guitar/bass/drums band, but do not dare call them typical. UBT are a revival band in a sense, echoing the dirtiest of garage rock sounds from all the way back to the MC5.
While the above song is a mysterious and beautiful cut from the album, it doesn’t provide the best example of what the release is about as a whole. It has been a while since I was able to point to a band that’s into garage purism as much as Uncle Bad Touch. Simply put, these three basement rockers are The Gories of this decade, with a hell of a lot more sleazy swagger about them. This is made abundantly clear within the first screeches of “I Wanna Love You,” as bassist and vocalist Kathryn McCaughey wavers between making a move of quick passion or putting it off until a later date.
Everything is so loud on this record, and it’s awesome that way. Do you remember how any time James Williamson so much as touched his guitar strings on Raw Power, it sent a harsh, shrill pierce to your eardrums? UBT may as well have applied that setting to every microphone while recording this album, and it works very well for what they do. This LP came out in latter days of 2011, and it sounds as if you pulled it from a sleeve crammed in between Kick Out The Jams and Here Are The Sonics.
The trio does break tradition on a few occasions, which ends up making them even cooler. A good portion of the album features acoustic songs that still maintain the band’s attitude while offering a less abrasive listen. Arguably the neatest component to Uncle Bad Touch is guitarist and vocalist Mikey Heppner’s dual role as a flutist. Soulful flute riffs are sprinkled thoughtfully over tracks like “La” and “Always,” taking you right in the midst of a Tarantino flick. Speaking of “Always,” you’ve heard that song before. That’s right; in an instance of oddity comparable to the Volcano Suns covering “1999″ live, Uncle Bad Touch chose to make their take on Erasure‘s synth pop classic a part of the album.
Whether you decide to like this album or not all depends on taste. If lines like “Can’t fuck because he has a whiskey dick” are going to offend or make you feel uncomfortable, then pass this on. It is by no means a constant barrage of profanity, but the overall tone that surrounds Uncle Bad Touch is a combination of modern sleaze and blaring ’60s-esque instruments. And there is indeed a place for that right now.
Uncle Bad Touch fills an esoteric but much needed hole in today’s music. Their debut sounds as authentic as any “street-walkin’ cheetah” from garage’s golden years. Infinity Cat records truly has a roster to be reckoned with now.